We’re almost done – episode 6 of Style Battle trundled on as several familiar faces had another crack at WWN’s tournament of tournaments.
Yes, we’re reviewing this over a month late – and by the time this review’s up, episode 7 will be only a few days away… We genuinely missed that they’d done another round of this, so let’s get cracking. Trevin Adams and MSL are on commentary at Ybor City’s Orpheum, and right out the gate they acknowledge there’s returning faces… which is part of the problem here. Style Battle is an elongated 64-man tournament, but when you’ve got guys like Fred Yehi who’ve been in all but one of these six brackets, it’s becoming rather WCW-esque. Just without Madusa.
It’s also been a while since I’ve seen FIP, and it seems that Timothy Barr’s grown a goatee…
First Round: Chip Day vs. Ethan Case
Case is back after his brief appearance in the fourth episode of Style Battle, and having heard of – but never seen – Chip Day before, it’s fair to say he’s heavily borrowed his look from Mikey Whipwreck.
A nice even start sees Case get taken to the outside with a spinning kick… ahead of a tope con hilo that almost had Day crashing into the stage! Back inside, a top rope senton gets a near-fall, as Chip keeps up with a springboard DDT as Ethan Case had real trouble getting out of the blocks.
Finally Case looks to get going, but he’s wiped out with a running double knees for a near-fall. A trip takes Case into the corner for more double knees, which they’re apparently calling Day of the Dead… but Case hits back out of nowhere with a release suplex and that’s enough for the win. Wow… a real banana peel finish, huh? Chip Day took 95% of the match, and lost… which has me scratching my head. It was good as it was, as a Chip Day showcase, but I guess this was alright for getting across “you can get flash wins” as a finish. **¾
WWN’s got a new interviewer – Ron Niemi – so Trevin Adam’s no longer having to run from commentary to the entryway between matches.
First Round: John Skyler vs. Thomas Sharp
Skyler may be familiar to those who’ve watched NXT for a while, as he did some enhancement work there in 2016. He seems to have borrowed Finlay’s old WCW jacket in that time… you know, the one with the wacky shoulder pad? Thomas Sharp is Ethan Page’s old Gatekeeper, formerly Blaster McMassive (aka “the one who didn’t retire”).
There’s an obvious size difference as Sharp pie-faces Skyler… and earns a bicycle kick ahead of a roll-up that nearly gets a flash pin. Sharp shrugs it off and keeps trying to assert his power, chopping Skyler in the corner before throwing him to the outside. Skyler manages to slingshot himself back in with a spear, but Sharp clubs away on him some more ahead of a big boot that takes him to the deck.
A fallaway slam takes Skyler out onto the apron, where he hits another spear to take Sharp down to the floor. Sharp makes it back inside, and tosses Skyler with an overhead belly-to-belly… but Skyler again recovers and takes Sharp into the corner for a victory roll that wins his way into the semis! That’s another “outta nowhere” finish as the trend here seems to be to not build up to a finisher, but this was a solid David beats Goliath-style match. **¾
First Round: Caleb Konley vs. Barrett Brown
It’s a second chance for Konley, who went out in the first round back at episode two… and he starts by waffling Barrett from behind during the ring introductions.
Konley keeps the momentum up early, but Brown makes a comeback with armdrags, then a forearm before a ‘rana took Caleb to the outside. That’s shrugged off so Konley decides to just lay into Barrett with a lariat for a near-fall as the back-and-forth picked up pace, with Barrett’s latest flurry ending with a missed charge into the corner, ahead of a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall.
Barrett tries to catch Konley with a tiltawhirl into a guillotine, releasing in time to avoid a suplex as Konley’s taken to the corner for a dropkick. A running double stomp nearly scores the upset for the Texan, but he goes up top and misses, allowing Konley to come back with a spinning backfist and a bridging Regalplex for another two-count.
After hitting an inverted slam, Barrett tries to get another near-fall with a running knee… but Konley keeps fighting on… rolling through a top rope rana to deliver some powerbombs before trapping Brown in a Boston crab ended up being reversed into a roll-up for a near-fall. Despite that, Brown ends up taking the loss as he’s put on the top rope, and brought down with a Samoan driver out of the corner for the win. Another decent match, and we actually built to a finish for once! ***
First Round: Jarek 1:20 vs. Fred Yehi
Jarek got what could be best described as “polite applause” for his appearance, which is the closest thing you’re getting to WWN just throwing someone out there with no fanfare. Especially since he’s going up against Fred Yehi, who’s in yet another one of these tournaments, but still hasn’t had the Anthony Henry “win or you’re done” story.
Jarek gets someone from the crowd before the match so he can do a magic trick. At least he’s not Phantasio… although the crowd turned on this, so perhaps him pulling carves out of his tights may have been more entertaining.
FINALLY the bell rings, and we start with some back-and-forth as Yehi’s shoulder tackle gets a pinning attempt… that Jarek bridges out of as commentary looks to put him over as an escapologist. Sadly, Jarek can’t escape the stomps, nor a Tree of Woe as Yehi’s all over Jarek. More stomps and hammerfists take Jarek down for a near-fall, but Yehi slingshots into the path of an Ace crusher as he nearly fell to a shock loss.
Jarek tries to stomp back at Yehi, but that just angers Fred into some chops ahead of a bridging German for a near-fall. Yehi keeps hold, and rolls together those Germans, before he’s distracted by Jarek pulling a coin from behind his ear. That’s just a cover for a sneak punch that takes Yehi down for a near-fall, but again Yehi makes a comeback… and gets slapped so hard a deck of cards appears. Okay, I feel like I’m watching someone inspired by the time they played as Doink on the old In Your House game. What’s next, a joy buzzer?
Nope, Yehi apparently gets stomach cramps as Jarek’s going all Papa Shango on him… as a card comes out of Yehi’s mouth. What in God’s name is this? Yehi’s shocked by the card he’s gotten out of his mouth, and he turns around into a superkick for another near-fall. Just like that though, Yehi snaps back with an STO into the Koji clutch, and Jarek feebly taps. LAME. The magician gimmick seemed to be played more for comedy than anything else, and a lot of it fell flat… could they not have had this throwaway match against anyone else? *
Let’s be fair here, at this point in the series, Style Battle is featuring a LOT of names that only hardcore fans get… and since you’re getting the same fans at the Orpheum, the crowd reactions are dwindling.
Semi-Final: Ethan Case vs. John Skyler
After Case made it to the semis with a win “against the run of play”, you’d think he’s got something to prove here. There’s a tentative start as both men struggle to get anything out of the opening tie-up, before a tie-up turned into a takedown as they kept things basic.
Skyler charges into Case with a shoulder tackle, before connecting with some back sentons as it barely elicited the polite response from the crowd. This is plodding, but finally Case gets some knees up to block the back senton, before following in with a backdrop suplex and a grounded bearhug. Skyler stands up and forces an escape, before throwing some chops… only to take way too long and get caught in an abdominal stretch. After letting go of the hold, Case pounds away at Skyler’s midsection, before he avoids the receipt of that abdominal stretch and instead hits a Blue Thunder Bomb for a two-count.
Case puts the brakes on as he charges into the corner, before springing off the bottom turnbuckle into a superkick as the two descend into a striking battle. Skyler edges ahead with a boot in the corner, then an uppercut, before planting Case with a slingshot spear for another near-fall. Ethan nearly snatches a win with a pop-up into a forearm smash, before Skyler snaps into a Finlay roll for another two-count.
A slingshot from Case takes Skyler into the corner, before Ethan springs back with a cutter out of the corner… but still that’s only good for a two-count. Case randomly bends over after a small package as a Tiger Driver and an STF almost got the win for Skyler, but Case makes the ropes and head onto the apron.
We build up to an attempted apron suplex, but the referee actually breaks it up for… reasons. That leads to a boot that takes Case back inside, before he catches another slingshot spear, turning it into a release suplex for the win. This started out agonisingly slow, but it picked up a little at the end… but I just don’t see anything in Case based on these showings tonight. **
After the match, Ethan Case declared that “WWN needs Ethan Case”. Your milage will vary!
Semi-Final: Caleb Konley vs. Fred Yehi
Yehi comes flying out of the blocks as he looks to end things early against Konley… but Caleb’s here to put up a fight. Which is just as well, really!
Still, Yehi’s able to knock Konley down and slowly work away with chops, then stomps, ending with a double stomp to the kidney area. A German suplex takes Konley to the outside, but the baseball slide’s caught, spun around, and met with a knee lift as Yehi is dragged to the floor for an attempted count-out.
Back inside, Konley takes a page out of Yehi’s book with some stomps, as some grounded body scissors try to wear him down some more, ahead of a slingshot that sent Fred into the bottom rope. It’s methodical stuff, but like most things with this crowd, is barely drawing a response. Konley keeps charging Yehi into the corner, before duelling dropkicks miss as both men crashed to the mat. Yehi manages to rebound by manipulating Caleb’s legs into the rope so he can’t counter any upkicks, but he ends up trapped in the ropes and is brought down with a moonsault for a near-fall.
An attempted ‘rana is caught by Caleb, who rushes in with a buckle bomb before Yehi countered back with a release German and a diving dropkick… but we’re still no nearer to a win, as Yehi peppers Konley with knees to the head, then some forearms, before running into a series of spinning backfists.
Yehi gets back in with stomps, before throwing Konley into the corner with a German suplex as the resurgence continued… only for Yehi to leap into a Samoan driver that almost got Konley a reaction-less near-fall. A moonsault from Konley misses, and seconds later he’s pulled into the STO as a Koji clutch gets Yehi his third successive spot in the final. This was good, but my God, this crowd may as well not be here. These guys deserve better, sadly… ***
Ethan Case comes out to interrupt Yehi’s post match promo, mocking the “you’re in big trouble” line before vowing to beat the man tagged as the “MVP of WWN”. Intermission time! Now I can fast-forward without feeling bad…
We’re back from interval with two non-tournament matches. Someone ought to have told the crowd, as there were so many empty seats… to the point where there weren’t even enough fans to ironically “one fall” Timmy Barr.
Dani J vs. Priscilla Kelly
Apparently Dani J is a trainee of AR Fox’s, continuing the influence his students have had on the non-tournament matches here. This match isn’t for Kelly’s SHINE Nova title, so I’m expecting this to be no more than a competitive squash.
Dani runs into a superkick, before a back suplex puts her down for just a one-count. I think MSL’s late back from intermission as Trevin Adams is flying solo on commentary as Priscilla has it all her own way here… and just as I type that, he piped up! A running kick gets a near-fall for Priscilla, as Dani may as well have been a tackling dummy.
Finally Dani tries to fight back, snapmaring Kelly to the mat ahead of a knee to the back, before the old Mr Perfect neck snap helped get… a one count! Kelly hits back with a half-and-half suplex, before a Russian legsweep sees her pull Dani into the Made in Sin grounded Octopus for the submission. Exactly what this match should have been… God, I miss the days of old squash matches. *¾
Tony Midas vs. Kavron Kanyon vs. Alan Angels vs. David Ali vs. James Bandy vs. Ashton Starr vs. Leon Ruff vs. AC Mack
The gimmick here is that the winner of the typical “Mayhem” (as opposed to Fray, because… I don’t know) gets into the field for September’s Style Battle. Should Fred Yehi have been in here, just to keep the gimmick up? Nothing says “stars” like “everyone comes out to the same music”!
Superkicks-a-plenty start this off as this threatened to be a typical spotty, multi-man mess, but at least we had a lot of two-in, everyone-else-out action. Ali cracks Angels with an enziguiri early, before Ashton Starr interrupts him with a crucifix takedown and a Randy Orton-style neckbreaker. James Bandy wipes out Starr with a flipping neckbreaker, before Midas gets in with an attempted Lethal Combination, before hitting a back senton/elbow. Kavron Kanyon’s next and hits a ripcord headbutt to Midas, before countering a counter into a Finlay roll, as a springboard legdrop leads to a break-up from Leon Ruff.
Ruff pulls off a nice triple-jump springboard armdrag before moonsaulting into a DDT. Yep, he’s at least gotten the most impressive flash of offence so far… and just as I typed that, AC Mack flew in with a kick as the cycling continued. Ali goes flying with a dive to the outside, as does Alan Angels, courtesy of a moonsault off the top rope, before Ruff tried… and got dragged to the outside by Starr.
Starr’s springboard body press works, and now Ruff has his go, hitting the corkscrew moonsault to the floor. Back inside, Mack and Angels tee off on each other before Angels set up for a contrived domino-effect Sliced Bread, as we find out that the Midas Touch is Tony Midas’ own name for the common-or-garden Ace Crusher. Bodies continue to fly, but very little of this match resonates as it’s a template multi-man indy match that you’ve seen so many times before with folks getting a move or two in before being taken out. In the end, Ruff gets the win, sneaking in and dropping Mack with a crucifix bomb for the pin. It was what it was, with nobody really getting enough of a run to stand out from the pack, but at least they got some time. As to whether Ruff’s win really matters… probably not, in the great scheme of things on this tournament. **½
Final: Ethan Case vs. Fred Yehi
Case, whose showing thus far has been on the opposite end of the spectrum from “impressive” starts by taking Yehi into the corner with some shoulder charges. Stop mugging for the camera!
Yehi tries to fight back from the ground up, before felling Case with a series of chops, leading to Ethan scurrying to the outside as he escaped the Koji Clutch. Commentary tries to play up professional jealousy as Case is painted as an unknown, whereas Yehi’s hit the heady-heights of WWE.com. Dot com, baby! If that was the case (hah), Ethan wasn’t showing it as Yehi took him to town with a suplex for a near-fall, only for Ethan to roll outside to get some separation.
Yehi tries to use some misdirection, but he runs into a springboard cutter as Case came close. Some whips into the corner see Case slowly descend into taking snide shots at Yehi – first through pulling at his nose, before throwing in some shots to the back as we’re back to that goddamned grounded bearhug. If part of your arsenal is flipping off the ropes, I don’t think you can quite get away with also playing a “power guy” with moves like bearhugs…
Some chops help Yehi fight back into it, as does a series of German suplexes, before Case slaps away Yehi as he climbed the ropes. Regardless, Yehi slips out of an Iconoclasm attempt and just throws Case into the turnbuckles with a German suplex… but Case gets off the release suplex as he finds that he can’t get the win with that one again. Just like that, Yehi slips in with a STO and a Koji Clutch, but Case is able to roll into the ropes as Fred finds his usual finish isn’t working either!
Case smashes in with a knee as Yehi tried for the Koji clutch again, before the release suplex sent Yehi rolling to the outside. Ethan’s happy to take a count-out win, before deciding to throw Yehi into the ring steps to try and make the win easier. At the count of 9, Yehi narrowly makes it back into the ring, so Case again throws him outside to throw him into a supporting column.
I think it’s a wash/rinse/repeat gimmick as Case finds other parts of the building. Again Yehi beats the count, and gets whacked with a knee as Case took way too long to build up to another release suplex. Of course, he’s caught out as Yehi hits the STO on a second attempt, before rolling into the Koji Clutch as Case finally taps. All-in, this was perhaps one of Yehi’s lesser showings in these tournaments, but I’d put that down to the folks he shared the ring with… **¾
After the match, Yehi cuts a promo saying that he’s seeking gold – starting with beating WALTER for the PROGRESS Atlas title. The crowd just seemed more interested in chanting MVP as the show came to an end…
At this point, Style Battle is worse than “just a show”… it started as an intriguing concept, but through what I can only call laziness this has slowly bombed, with little promotion and too many outside names being brought in with little fanfare, leading to matches in front of ever-quietening crowds.
Wheeling out names that – for all intents and purposes – may as well be randomers in front of a small, hardly-enthusiastic crowd isn’t exactly the best environment for creating stars. Or indeed, creating anything. At times, Style Battle has come across as more of a televised try-out for talents… and not just for the WWN crew either! Whilst Anthony Henry could point to Style Battle as one of the shows that’s catapulted in him to EVOLVE, we’ve also seen several other names move onto bigger things after their appearances here also.
In short, this product is ice cold. It’s not helped when the matches aren’t good, but when even the folks who watch everything are skipping this, (yes, Larry Csonka, we’re looking at you), you know it’s withering on the vine.